Google may need to gear up for a fight on two more antitrust fronts, both Android and search, as against more than fifty attorneys general are reportedly looking to expand investigations into the company. That’s according to people said to be ‘familiar’ with the matter.
The sources are adamant that there’s currently no timeline for that leg of the investigation to start. But the attorneys general are purportedly planning to draw up civil investigative demands related to the inquiry. Those will be served to Google with relation to its operating system and search business by representatives of 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
Google search and Android are just the latest the company’s troubles
If the reports are accurate, that puts a total of three Google groups at stake in the US. The company is already under investigation by what appears to be the same attorneys general for potential antitrust violations. That other investigation centers around Google’s ad business.
Specifically, the concern is Google’s dominance in the Internet space. Google operates the most popular web browser, Chrome, and Google Ads is not only an enormous entity, supporting most of the company’s work. The combination of ownership also puts Google in a position to potentially abuse its dominance. Google finds itself in a position to rank itself highly in ads shown in search results as well.
As a result of that dominance, there are additional worries that Google might be impossible to compete with for other ad companies. But it’s likely the latter point that calls its search business into question.
Tying into that, there have been complaints extending beyond that potential abuse too. Politicians, in particular, have expressed concern over whether or not Google’s dominance in search helps it manipulate user perspective.
Some US Representatives and the President have, for instance, accused the company of portraying them unfavorably deliberately. Accusations have also surfaced claiming Google alters search results to drive down opposing political views.
The company’s executives were even questioned about why the president’s image appeared when users entered “idiot” as the search term. It responded in late December, explaining how its algorithm gauges associated images and terms.
Further probes into Google have also been underway from the Department of Justice, pursuing information about a possible antitrust violation.
It’s not just the U.S. investigating the search giant either
That the proposed extension of antitrust inquiries extends beyond Google and search to include Android follows problems the company has already been dealing with internationally. EU investigators and courts forced the company to pay billions of dollars in fees due to antitrust violations.
In fact, those penalties have come as a direct consequence of its search policies and practices. That has effectively forced Google to begin unbundling its apps in order to prevent further fines. In the interim, the search giant has gained some support against antitrust allegations abroad but it remains to be seen if that will help matters there.
In yet another case, Google recently changed policies in Chrome to allow Yandex and other search engines as an optional default. That came about following a case in Russia in 2017 and ultimately forced a change in Google’s browser.
The company has invested a significant amount of its efforts over the past several years into bringing all of its services and brands together. That’s been the case across search, Android, ads, and other businesses under the Google umbrella. That activity and inquiries abroad could easily lead to further trouble at home for the company.